Gord Price: Spent a few days in Victoria to deliver a talk for the District of Saanich as they begin local area planning revisions for Cadboro and Cordova Bays. In my extra hours, I had a chance to check out a few places in my home town.
The first observation: in some ways Victoria has changed not at all. It still seems to be demographically weighted to the older and retired. (At a restaurant in Broadmead, an affluent suburb of Saanich, among the hundred-or-so diners almost all were in their 50s or above, and 100 percent were white.) On Government Street downtown, Murchies tea shop still looks like the setting for a Barron cartoon*:
The extraordinary landscape of southern Vancouver Island, with Gary Oak and Arbutus prospering in the drier, milder landscape of rock outcrops and ridges, is still the defining feature of this self-conscious Eden.
However, the built city is changing, particularly in the blocks on the immediate west side of downtown:
Victoria, when I was growing up there in the 60s, knew what it didn’t want: anything that looked like downtown Vancouver and the West End. Understandably, given its first taste of highrise development:
But after downzoning James Bay and providing no alternative for residential growth (and certainly not tall buildings), the City saw its downtown suffer with the growth of retail elsewhere, cutbacks in provincial-government employment and the economics of seasonal tourism. It then looked to Vancouverism as a model, and the results are evident.
*Sid Barron was an editorial cartoonist for Victoria and Toronto newspapers, who had a gentle touch and a sharp pen, able to delightfully caricature the British-influenced culture of post-war Canada.
The site proposal being referenced in this decades-old cartoon is a waterfront parking lot on the Inner Harbour – still, as far as I know, contentious and unresolved.
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